Friday, August 18, 2017

Not Our Commander-In-Chief. Not A Journalist.

The Daily Beast's Matt Wilstein asks "What’s a Fox & Friends host to do when they desperately want to push President Donald Trump’s narrative that “both sides” are to blame for Charlottesville, but their guests want to talk about what’s really going on in America right now?"

Rephrased: What is a daughter of a former governor, U.S.ambassador to China, and (proposed) future US ambassador to Russia, who got a position at Good Morning America at age 16, to do when she is a host on the most-watched cable news network in America and is frightfully ignorant?

Abby Huntsman was leading a discussion of President Trump's response to the events in Charlottesville, Virginia and expecting disagreement between Wendy Osefo and Gianno Caldwell, the latter a card-carry Republican, when

“This has become very troubling for anyone to come on any network and defend what President Trump did and said at that press conference yesterday,” he said. “It’s completely lost and [has] the potential to be morally bankrupt.”

“No,” Huntsman could be heard pushing back off screen.

“I’m sorry, no I believe that and I’m being very honest as someone who has been talking about these issues for a very long time, I’m sorry that this is where we are right now. I hope the president learns a lesson from his press conference yesterday. It’s disturbing.”

Acknowledging the “sensitive” nature of the conversation, Huntsman once again tried to get Caldwell to talk about statues, something he had no interest in doing.

By the end of the segment, Caldwell was openly weeping, wiping tears from his eyes as Osefo nodded along in support and started to tear up herself. Hunstman had no idea what she had walked into and no concept of how to handle it.

Save no sympathy for Huntsman, who early in the segment had stated

There are good people on both sides of this debate. We talk about keeping these statues up. People that I've talked to say this is about history. How do we move forward now- do we learn from our mistakes if we ust tear everything down?

Nice touch there, Abby, maintaining "people that I've talked to" rather than "I believe" or simply "isn't this about history?" This way, when she eventually parts ways voluntarily or involuntarily with Fox News, she can go back to MSNBC or to CNN.  Additionally, one might ask: if it is a mistake- as she suggests it may be- why would we want to perpetuate it?

But it got worse when she claimed "He is the President of the United States. He is the Commander-in-Chief of- for all of us. Last (indistinguishable), Wendy, what would  you like to hear more of from the President on this?"

Praise the Lord because Donald Trump is not "Commander-in-Chief for all of us." Article II, Section 2 of the US Constitution states "The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States."

This is no inconsequential mistake. The President is our employee; he is not the boss of us, a different relationship than prevails between the President (the Commander-in-Chief) and commissioned officers of the armed services.  Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice reads 

Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Transportation, or the Governor or legislature of any State, Territory, Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

And that's why it's significant that the highest-ranking Navy officer commented  "The Navy will forever stand against intolerance and hatred" and the Commandant of the Marine Corps tweeted "no place for racial hatred or extremism in @USMC." while the Army Chief of Staff maintained "The Army doesn't tolerate racism, extremism, or hatred in our ranks." All the while, GOP politicians- who are free of the constraints of commissioned military officers- are loathe to utter the word "Trump" or "President."

Huntsman's was no trivial mistake, for if the President is the Commander-in-Chief of every civilian, dissent is unacceptable and Article I, Section 1 of the US Constitution is  rendered meaningless. While print journalists must hew strictly to objectivity and accuracy, a Fox News host can actually claim- in a highly consequential context- that the President is "the Commander-in-Chief of all of us" and suffer no consequence. It's a charmed life.

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